Nepalese Workers Come to Rescue Picking Apples in Croatia

Katarina Anđelković

Updated on:

Damir Spehar / Pixsell
Damir Spehar / Pixsell

Glas Slavonije reports on the state of autumn pickings in Croatia. “If it weren’t for the Nepalese, we would have no apples. Yes, people whose home is 6,000 kilometers away are saving the day again. You remember that over the summer we regularly talked about restaurant owners struggling to find waiters and cooks. Because – for the money they offer, no one wants to work. Now the same problem has been reflected in orchards, vineyards, and soon also in olive groves. Hourly wages are too low, Croatian pickers are asking for more, and farmers can no longer offer that, so the solution arrives from Nepal. And pensioners also came to the rescue”, Mojmira Pastorčić introduced the story in last night’s RTL Direkt.

It’s sweet, it’s crispy. In the past, Eva would not have to overthink, but nowadays – there is no one to pick apples.

In one of the largest Croatian orchards the tractors stand still. Baskets are empty. 6 thousand tons of fuji, breborn, jonagold, golden delicious, red cup, granny smith and gala are still waiting on the branches. The harvest was stopped by the weather, but in order for it to even begin, the director of this orchard had to start planning – on time, which means six months in advance. She has 30 workers, but she needs 300 for the harvest.

“We have about a hundred local people for whom we have provided transport to the orchard and 200 foreign workers who are partly from the region but mostly from Nepal, to whom we have provided all the adequate needs, including accommodation and food as well as bus transport to the orchard”, said Ivona Tupek, director of Moslavina Fruit.

They are the ones who are rescuing the Croatian apple harvest second year in a row. They are in a former workers’ hotel in Ivanić Grad. They have a day off because of the rain.

“We are from Nepal. We work here, in Moslavina. We pick apples. Everything is OK. We have been here for one month”, reports a Nepalese worker.

And they are staying until the end of the harvest. There is no other choice, no matter how complicated the procedure is for importing labor.

“These are complicated procedures as far as work permits and contracts are concerned, as well as entering Croatia and staying here, so unfortunately we are forced to rely on foreign labor, no matter how difficult it is to get them”, said Tupek.

Each variety of apple has its own picking window, as fruit growers call it. It only lasts two weeks. If the apple is not picked at that time – it will end up in the waste.

The average seasonal worker in this orchard picks 800 kilograms of apples in eight hours, but there are also those who pick twice as much at the same time.

The difference is often due to age. Unlike young Nepalese, the domestic labor force is mostly made up of retirees.

“As a rule, the current seasonal workforce in orchards is an older population, where we come to a new problem, which is the efficiency and quality of the workforce itself. Usually, you will be happy to get an employee at the expense of the quality and productivity they can provide during the harvest”, said Luka Cvitan from the Association of Apple Producers.

“And the neighbors come over when you need help. We can still do that a bit”, said Štefica, a market seller and farmer. She adds, “you don’t have to pay your neighbors. When you need each other, it’s always good to jump in and help each other”.

In some places, it’s the neighbours who step in and help for free, and in other places, it’s the Nepalese.

For more, make sure to check out our Lifestyle section.


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